Pocket Stables is a horse-racing and ranch-building sim game from Kairosoft, released in November 2013 for iOS and Android, the latter onto both Google Play and Amazon App Store. In this game, you have just acquired a ranch and you must now acquire horses for racing, the ultimate goal being to win the triple-crown derby. The sim part of the game comes into play with the fact that you must build out your ranch with training facilities, lodging for your jockeys and horses, and even attractions to earn money from visitors. And then there's research. Win races and build out certain attractions to earn medals, which can be put towards unlocking courses, new breeds of horses and researching and upgrading abilities. All this while balancing on a very tight budget.
The game contains the following tropes:
- Adam Smith Hates Your Guts: In both the research and shopping aspects of the game. Every time you buy something, the price of that item goes up so that it's more expensive the next time you buy it. The same goes for researching of new breeds- every time you research a breed, the cost of researching the next breed goes up by 10 medals. Justified in that they're not only the Only Shop in Town, but they're also run by one of your rivals. However, when buying horses, usually there are several options.
- Bunny-Ears Lawyer: Mimi Meers, a jockey that not only wears bunny ears, but is actually one of the more proficient jockeys with decent stats that you can hire. note
- Captain Ersatz: True to Kairo Soft fashion, you can find knockoffs of celebrities ranging from the late Billy Mays to Chuck Norris and beyond in the game.
- The Computer Is a Cheating Bastard: Higher up races can be this. It always have a counter-strategy ready regardless of the strategy you picked. It also has no qualms of using the other horses to cluster you and slow you down. And lastly, the horses the computer opponents have are always order of magnitude more powerful than the track requires. This is all combined with the Rubber Band AI issue mentioned below. Simply put, you're not expected to come in first place consistently until you learnt how to breed super-horses, assuming you don't go bankrupt beforehand.
- Failure Is the Only Option: Played with. It's actually possible to win the Novice race the first time you start playing. But that would mean praying to the Random Number God to give you a horse with rather high initial stats, and possibly having a Speed Feed from the New Game+ or training until you're low on cash. Also, winning the race immediately means you do not unlock the (much easier) Maiden race, which gives some excellent goodies (like another Speed Feed) when won. In other words, failure is required for 100% Completion
- Game-Breaking Bug: It's possible for a rival horse to kick your horse into a corner and get you stuck, ensuring that there's no way for you to finish the race unless you retire. Likewise, it's possible for the computer to do this to it's own horses.
- The 1.0.2 update for iOS somehow managed to break support for iPads with Retina display if the iPad has iOS 8.1 or newer by not detecting the context buttons at the bottom of the screen. Invariably, this means being locked out of the save and menu/back button, pretty much making the game unplayable. This was finally rectified in the 1.0.3 release, almost two months later.
- Luck-Based Mission: Racing can be this. The only thing you have control over is the strategy to use. The computer picks the rivals and their strategy at random, as well as your starting cage number which may or may not give you an edge in the race. This is only averted if your horse is well-trained, and in later races, properly bred.
- Nintendo Hard: Between balancing your checkbook, raising the perfect horse and winning races which may or may not be a Luck-Based Mission, it's very hard and requires a lot of trial and error.
- New Game+: The game allows you to start with up to two items you unlocked in your previous playthrough. Also, earned Pedigree Papers are not wiped when you start a new game, as are the stat upgrades you gave your jockeys.
- Only Six Faces: While a staple trope of many Kairosoft games, Pocket Stables takes it Up to Eleven by having every single guest that visits your ranch appear indistinguishable from the others of their class type. For example, all gardeners look alike, all students look alike, etc.
- Refuge in Audacity: You can have a Chuck Norris Captain Ersatz race an incredibly fast gnu against other horses.
- Retraux: Like all Kairo Soft games, the game sprite designs are reminiscent of 16-bit graphics, specifically the graphics of the SNES era.
- Rubber Band AI: Look at the progress bar during the race- the rival horses are never far behind, always.
- Save Scumming: You'll find yourself doing this a lot in the early parts of the game, whether it's restarting a race over and over to find the best strategy (or changing your starting booth or rivals and their strategies), or restarting the day to raise your horse differently. The fact that the game doesn't penalize you for it adds to the temptation.
- Self-Imposed Challenge: Some players have tried playing with an extra condition where they forfeit the game if they managed to get to the point where their assistant have to sell off her valuables to fund the ranch. Invariably, this means trying to not dip below $50k in cash (it feels disgraceful because your assistant is selling her valuables to fund your ranch).
- You Have Researched Breathing: The need to research new breeds of horses, especially those that your rivals are already using in races.